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My greatest gaming regret is never making it to one of those ridiculous BattleTech Centers

May 29 // Nic Rowen
While BattleTech Centers were a video game experience, I'd say they had more in common with a laser-tag joint than an arcade. It was a production; one part video game, one part fantasy. They'd sit you down inside an overly-complex facade of a mech cockpit they called a “battle pod,” complete with WWII bomber-style tail art and mock technical information plastered on the side. Inside were a dizzying array of peddles, throttles, joysticks, and an assortment of quasi-functional warning lights and buttons. The pod was totally enclosed, fully immersing the pilot in the fantasy of actually being in command of a giant war-machine. They'd give you a call sign, have you watch poorly acted in-universe tutorials of how the game worked (staring Jim Belushi of all people!) and print out “after action” military reports (scorecards) of your performance. Mechwarriors would play a networked multiplayer death match, piloting their giant mech against with other real live humans piloting their own mechs from separate pods. All of this in the year of our Lord 1991. It was astounding for the day. In just a few short years, they'd have the technology to allow players in different BattleTech Centers around the country play against each other, likely the first introduction to online multiplayer for many mech nuts. Again, this is in the early '90s! [embed]292997:58730:0[/embed] Even voicing the idea out loud, I have no idea how it got off the ground. It sounds like a pipe-dream. A mad fantasy scribbled down in the margins of a high school notebook during the last few minutes of a particularly boring English class. Not something real people would spend real money on. It sounds exactly like the product of one of the “wouldn't it be cool if...” head-in-the-clouds conversations I'd have with my brother when we were kids. Even at the absolute height of the franchise's popularity, I can't imagine dedicating an entire building to mechanized combat. Nowadays, The Avengers are about the most popular thing on Earth, with their combined movie franchise making more money than some national GDPs. Still, I can't imagine getting any investors jumping on board to make Iron Man Centers where you strap on some fake Tony Stark gloves and a helmet and shoot repulsor blasts at other players. It's insane. Still, BattleTech Centers happened. There was a time when you and 15 or more friends could pile into a couple of vans, drive to a BattleTech Center, and spend the afternoon recreating the 4th Succession Wars of the early 3000s from the comfort of your personal cockpit -- and I fucking missed it. Nothing gold can stay. As the popularity of BattleTech as a whole began to wane, and the general market shifted away from arcades in favor of home consoles, BattleTech Centers around the world began shuttering their cockpits. There were reattempts at the idea. BattleTech: Firestorm came out in early 2000s with improved Tesla 2 cockpits (capable of “Advanced Mission Mode” which actually turned on all of the extra switches and controls in the cockpit, changing them from a cute cosmetic affectation to necessary instruments). But despite a small hardcore audience of enthusiasts, battle pods are on the brink of extinction. There are a few places still running BattleTech pods, but they are scattered throughout the country and operate on a much smaller scale. A few half-functioning pods tucked in the back of an arcade at a Go-Kart track in New Mexico. A small mech cache in Houston that is only open on occasional weekends or by appointment. Or the Fallout Shelter Arcade's wandering BattleTech exhibition that travels between conventions and events, dropping pods in the middle of a show floor for curious attendees. Even with these last few preservationists, the clock is ticking. The machines are getting older, spare parts and the knowledge to repair them increasingly scarce. Soon, the few remaining pods around may suffer the “lostech” fate that befell the advanced Star League technology of the BattleTech series (an end that is deeply depressing to the part of me that still wants to climb into a cockpit, and bizarrely exhilarating to the part of me that is a bone-deep MechWarrior nerd). Look, I know these centers are dead for a reason. I get that they were cheesy as hell even when they were new. I know the games probably haven't held up. The once quasi-mystical LAN multiplayer experience is completely unnecessary these days and there are any number of better mech games and pilot sims to spend your time on. [embed]292997:58731:0[/embed] But good lord, I just would have loved to have gone to one back in their heyday. Just the idea of dragging a few of my friends and family (who aren't obsessed with giant robots) to one of those centers puts a smile in my heart. Sitting through the terrible videos, climbing into one of those big fake cockpits, it's just the right blend of something I would enjoy both ironically and completely sincerely. Of course I would immediately switch it to the so-called Advanced Mission Mode and spend most of the time flailing about trying to figure out the controls and basically waste the opportunity. I know myself, I'm exactly that kind of jerk. I guess I should start planning a road-trip to catch up with one of the few remaining clutches of pods scattered around the country. The big, silly BattleTech Centers of yesterday are gone, and I'll never get the chance to go to one, but their legacy is still around -- at least for now. I don't want to add another regret to the pile. 
BattleTech Centers photo
They'll never bury me in my robot
I've done a lot of things I'm not proud of in my life. I've made a lot of mistakes, missed some opportunities that still feel like a cavity in my heart, know that I've done wrong. But if I'm being honest? My number one regret...

Star Fox Spoof Trailer photo
Star Fox Spoof Trailer

Nerdist's spoof Star Fox trailer reminds me of the old Nintendo Power comic


Never give up. Trust your instincts
Feb 18
// Jason Faulkner
Star Fox is possibly the most under-appreciated Nintendo series. It's had games cancelled, been snubbed entirely for a whole console generation, and hasn't received an original entry since 2006 (although an untitled Sta...
ToeJam & Earl photo
ToeJam & Earl

Nostalgia alert: New ToeJam & Earl in development


No need for the Genesis
Feb 04
// Robert Summa
As a '90s kid, there was nothing better than sitting down and wasting hours upon hours playing ToeJam & Earl on the Genesis. It was a game unlike any other I had played and I can't even really think of any other game like...

Shadowgate update photo
Shadowgate update

Shadowgate launches 'retro two-pack' update today


Enjoy the original on your fancy machine of the future
Nov 22
// Rob Morrow
Starting today, developer Zojoi and its publisher Reverb Triple XP will be updating the re-imagined point-and-click adventure title Shadowgate to include the 128K Mac and Apple IIGS versions of the game, free of charge....

I miss demo discs

Oct 28 // Nic Rowen
For the younger gamers among us, or those who missed the heady days of PS1 and pre-broadband internet PC gaming, demo discs were a phenomenon in the mid-'90s to early 2000s. You'd find them packaged in with gaming magazines, or on a rack next to the checkout at an EB Games for the same price as a single weekend rental, or through weird cross-promotional deals with Pizza-Hut (the guiltiest pleasure). In all honesty, they weren't some grand new invention, just a logical step forward from the shareware floppies of the PC world. But, for gamers raised on consoles to that point (like myself) the entire concept was revolutionary. Instead of just reading a review in a magazine, or watching a 10-second clip of repeating video at the mall kiosk like a hobo, you could actually get your hands on a small chunk of a game and play it for yourself. In fact, you could get your hands on all kinds of games in a single disc! I probably clocked as much time on demo discs as I did on actual games on the PS1. I remember playing the Metal Gear Solid demo (with the Japanese voice actors!) over and over again, wringing every last drop of gameplay from it. I spent hours replaying that 20-minute chunk of the game, finding new ways to mess with the guards, or just having fun leaving foot-tracks in the snow. By the time MGS released, I felt like I was playing a sequel more than anything. Any shump on a demo disc triggered my latent OCD, and usually talked me out of buying the game. I'd spend so much time setting and breaking personal high scores on the demo stage that I never felt the need to purchase the full version. Gimmicky games like Bloody Roar suffered a similar fate; you really only needed to see one or two kung-fu guys turn into a tiger or wolfman mid-fight to appreciate what that series had to offer. It was such a thrilling novelty at the time. In fact, demo discs were one of the main reasons I wanted a PS1 so badly (aside from Final Fantasy VII).   Of course, that all seems wonderfully old timey and folksome now. These days, with every console offering downloads, "beta tests" for multiplayer titles out a month before release, and Steam occasionally offering free weekends with entire full games, it's hard to even remember an era where demos weren't a ubiquitous, expected, and wholly commonplace part of the industry. But if you ask me, it's not the same as it used to was (I say, gesturing wildly with my cane, not noticing that my housecoat has fallen open and I'm exposing my shriveled, long-unused bits to the horrified nurses). It's important to remember that demo discs were a bundle of games, a collection of samples. Nowadays, it's easier than ever to get a trial of a specific game. Maybe too easy. You just go into whatever system you're on, search down the title, and download. You don't need to bother with anything else. Back in my day (spittle dripping down my chin, staining my bib), you ended up playing whatever the hell was on a disc, and you were better off for it. Thanks to demo discs (and juvenile poverty) I played all kinds of games I never would have touched. Back during lean days, demo discs were a godsend of gaming goodness, a way to milk hours of enjoyment from your PlayStation without tossing out another 60 bucks. If something was included on a disc, you were eventually going to play it – no matter how outside your wheelhouse it was. I fondly remember one summer when my brother and I were flat broke. We ended up playing a demo of NHL '98 over and over again, in part because we had exhausted every bit of gameplay from our library and had nothing else to do, and in part because we found out (much to our contrarian horror) that it was surprisingly fun. We would later half-jokingly, half-seriously, float the idea of picking up a copy of it because we enjoyed it so much. I know we weren't the only ones who had our horizons broadened because of demo discs. I'll never forget a surreal Saturday when we were invited to my uncle's house specifically to play PaRappa the Rapper with his whole family. You have to understand, my uncle was not the kind of guy who was down with quirky Japanese rhythm games. He was an old-school adventure and RPG guy, into Kings Quest and Diablo, not animated rapping dogs. But they played PaRappa on a demo disc and ended up madly in love with it, unable to get enough. It represented a sea-change in their home; the PC was banished to the basement office while their PlayStation library seemed to swell every weekend. That PaRappa demo, as odd and silly as it was, opened that whole family up to an entirely new world of gaming. Developers have had a lot of time to recognize and absorb the importance of demos as a marketing tool. As such, they (rightfully) put a lot of work into making them smoothly polished experiences that show off their games in the best possible light. That's all well and good. But goddamn do I miss the wonkiness and sheer silliness of old-school demo disc games.   [embed]283129:56140:0[/embed] Yes, most demos from that era were perfectly fine. But then there were the wonderful exceptions. The sweet beautiful monsters of sublime weirdness that would just leave you speechless and boggled. There is something retroactively charming about demos for games that were only half-cooked. Shown off before they were really ready, featuring placeholder sound effects and UI elements that wouldn't show up in the full release. Or the sloppy, painfully rushed demos that would drop you into the middle of a game with no explanation or context. Like waking up out of a fugue state in the cockpit of a plane, blood all over your hands, smeared on the instruments, people screaming at you to pull up. Have fun! It was a weird peek behind the curtain during a time when the gulf between development and consumer was as wide as possible. It was always fascinating to compare what was cut or changed between a demo and the full release, and speculate on the reasons why. I remember feeling savvy when I started to understand the differences between a good demo and a bad demo from both a consumer and developer perspective. In a weird way, demo discs helped to make me a craftier, more aware, gamer (and I bet I'm not the only one). Yes, demo discs were a promotional tool. And yes, bemoaning their obsolescence is almost as slavishly consumerist as being wistful for the days before PVRs and being able to skip the commercials. Part of me is embarrassed about that. I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea that I really and truly loved some marketing gimmick; my 15-year-old self, clad in a Rage Against the Machine T-shirt, would be mortified. But demo discs were promotional material in the best possible way. We take it for granted now, but being able to try out a game before you plunked down money on it was a fantastic opportunity back then. Honestly, they ended up warning you away from sub-standard titles as often as they sold you on something. They enriched your gaming vocabulary. Demo discs offered select excerpts from a weird smattering of genres and titles you might never have glanced sideways at, building your library with tiny sample-sized portions. People complain that they get into gaming ruts these days, always playing the same sort of thing. I wonder if that would happen as often if they were gently pushed to try other genres like demo discs used to. It's probably just the pleasant fog of early onset dementia, but I would be totally fine with bringing back the demo disc format. Along with spats, The Andrews Sisters, and the rotary telephone.
Demo disc nostalgia photo
Ramblings from the dementia ward
It's hard not to sound like an old man when you go off on something like this. Decrying modern advancement in favor of some kind of nostalgic never-was is always a terrific way to seem out of touch. Intellectually, I know tha...

EarthBound fan video photo
Four years in the making
Fans of EarthBound celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Japanese release a little over a month ago on August 27. Followers of the series are known for going above and beyond in celebrating it, so of course one would s...

Game Boy photo
Game Boy

Surprise! Kids today are spoiled, jaded, and kinda dumb when you show them older technology


But we knew that already
Jul 08
// Brittany Vincent
Completely removing nostalgia from the equation, these Kids React videos rub me the wrong way. For one thing, kids just don't have any relevant opinions that I'm interested in. I don't find them funny or insightful. And hone...
Angry Video Game Nerd photo
Angry Video Game Nerd

AVGN braves the unholy tide of Tiger LCD games


Attack on Tiger
Sep 08
// Tony Ponce
I knew this day would come. The Angry Video Game Nerd made a video about Tiger's line of LCD handheld games. I've warned you all about the horrors of these infernal contraptions. I even pointed you in the direction of an onl...
SNES final bosses photo
SNES final bosses

And now, 50 SNES final bosses bite the big one


Cinemassacre's Mike Matei has a 16-bit gaming quiz for you
Aug 16
// Tony Ponce
A few months ago, Cinemassacre and Angry Video Game Nerd collaborator Mike Matei uploaded a video quiz challenging viewers to guess the 50 NES games on display just from their final boss death animations. The bits have now d...
LCD browser games photo
LCD browser games

Play Game & Watch and other LCD games in your browser


Blast from handheld gaming's past
Aug 12
// Tony Ponce
Hey, 80s babies! Have fond memories of portable gaming in the days before Game Boy? Did your parents ever buy you those Tiger electronic handhelds for $10 a pop to shut you up on those long drives? Or were you born just a lit...
NES Music Box Ultra photo
NES Music Box Ultra

Play around with this fun NES music box


Gonna go back in time!
Apr 20
// Tony Ponce
Got a couple of minutes to spare? What am I saying? Of course you do! Check this shizz out! NeoGAF user asa spent a few days messing around in Unity in order to make a nifty interactive NES music box. By pressing the power bu...
NES final bosses photo
NES final bosses

50 NES games, 50 final boss death animations


Flex your retro knowledge in this video quiz
Apr 13
// Tony Ponce
Earlier this week, Mike Matei of Cinemassacre shared a video of 50 "deathblows" from popular and not so popular NES titles. He had originally intended to compose a list of his favorite final boss deaths from the NES era, but...
Beat Snake photo
HYPNOTIC
Everyone knows Snake. They've played it on their computers, on their phones, on their friggin' TI-83 calculators. It was Angry Birds before there was Angry Birds. But did you know there's an actual ending? This GIF tearing u...

Preview: Mage's Initiation channels Quest for Glory

Mar 07 // Fraser Brown
Mage's Initiation (PC)Developer: Himalaya StudiosPublisher: Himalaya StudiosReleased: February, 2014 The peaceful land of Iginor is about to get a nasty shock. Evil is afoot. Isn't that always the case with these fantasy adventures? It's never the threat of people being far too nice that sends the protagonist off on some grand journey. In this case the protagonist is D'arc, a teen mage. He'll be off gallivanting on some important errand for his masters throughout most of the game, but for the purposes of the demo, he's just learning the ropes from the safety of the mage's tower. Mage's Initiation will feature four mage classes, each corresponding to the elements of earth, wind, fire, and water. The different spellcasters come with unique spells, strengths and weaknesses, and personalities -- the point is to play the game more than once, clearly. I didn't have such a choice, however, and was restricted to playing a fire mage. It's okay, I thought as I consoled myself, I would have chosen that anyway. D'arc's home is a rather wondrous place, with the three rooms being showcased all suitably elemental. The library area looks like an indoor forest, with tree-like bookshelves and mossy tables with grubs that protect the parchment; the training room is all stone and flames, with armor and weapons covering the walls, and even a wee dragon standing guard. There's also the beautiful fountain room, and aquatic paradise with aquariums for walls and a large central water feature.  Everything is presented in detailed VGA-era art that sent me back twenty years. It's nostalgic, but still very easy on the eyes. During dialogue, character portraits pop up next to the text revealing more realistic visions of the characters complete with lip-syncing. The voiced dialogue is absent right now, presumably because it has yet to be recorded. I was presented with two challenges in my brief playthrough, the first being a traditional yet satisfying puzzle. I was given a conductor, a device that allowed me to increase my magical aptitude, and was tasked with activating a gem which would power it. The puzzle retained the elemental theme established from the get go and was both simple and logical. With it, a divide between the different elemental mages was hinted at, and it served as an unobtrusive tutorial. Mage's Initiation may look like it's just popped out of the '90s, but it has been designed with some modern sensibilities. Most notably, the robust interface and the way players can customize how they interact with the world make for a less obfuscated experience. You like the classic "verb coin"? No problem, toggle that on and you can employ that for the rest of the game. If you'd rather scroll through potential actions you can select that instead. You could even just hover over the bar at the top of the screen and choose your action from there. It's all exceedingly convenient. I'm a verb coin man, myself. With the gem powered up, I was able to equip it and reap its benefits. Only two gems can be equipped at a time, and this one gave me a minor boost in my magic attribute. Continuing my task led to me gaining my first level, where I was able to spend three points on my strength, magic, intelligence, or constitution. I like my mages buff, so I pumped it all into strength and then drank some creatine.  Level 2 mages get to kill lots of goblins, it turns out, and that was my second challenge. Battles take place in real-time, and I could direct D'arc to move around the battlefield, avoiding the nasty midgets' maces and arrows, even hiding behind a bush at one point, while casting three different spells. I was able to select my spells using hot keys and then fire them off with the right mouse button, but I could also just select them directly from the interface.  The sole combat scenario felt a bit like another puzzle, really. With only two potions -- one for magic, one for health -- and slowly regenerating HP and mana, I had to be thrifty when it came to unleashing my arcane onslaught, waiting for the right moment and using the right spells. Even the environment came into play as I led them around in circles, and, as I mentioned above, hid behind a bush.   While I did find myself enjoying the fight, the controls are a wee bit fidgety and not particularly responsive, so one would hope that this aspect will be tightened up over the next year. Even at a paltry level 2, I did feel like I had quite a few options when it came to dispatching my tiny green foes, though, and no small amount of power, so it will certainly be interesting to see if Mage's Initiation can keep the momentum going.  With the tiny slice of the game I played, I'm cautiously excited for Mage's Initiation. I confess that this is as much due to my love for Quest for Glory as it is due to the demo, but it appears to have some substantial depths for players to plumb and certainly nails the sorely missed, by me, VGA aesthetic found in Sierra adventures, among others. 
Mage's Initiation preview photo
A pyromaniac's first steps
The adventure/roleplaying game is one of my favorite hybrids, next to the Liger, and undoubtedly the first series that the mind conjures up when thinking of this genre is Sierra's Quest for Glory titles (other than the f...

Live-action RPG photo
Live-action RPG

This is what a live-action PS1 RPG would look like


Slow and clunky, exactly as I remembered 'em!
Feb 16
// Tony Ponce
Blue Core Studios, producer of the recent Sonic fan film, has decided to pump out a quickie short that pays homage to PS1-era RPGs, most notably the Final Fantasy series. I think the team was able to perfectly capture the sl...
Nintendo grammar photo
Nintendo grammar

Old Nintendo game translations were fun!


Return to the days of bad Nintendo grammar
Feb 02
// Tony Ponce
The adorable (and undeniably Canadian) Rinry used to be able to pump out fun, nostalgic videos at a fairly decent clip. But ever since she became a mommy, she hasn't had as much time for video production. 'Tis a shame, 'caus...

Offbeat Hall of Fame: Nintendo Super Power Supplies

Dec 09 // Tony Ponce
It's easy to forget just how great we have it these days. In the early 90s, aside from the rare Mario or Sonic merch, there was next to nothing on store shelves to feed our gaming appetites when we weren't actually playing games. The Internet has helped to turn the once isolated gaming community into a powerful network linked via cyberspace. Serving such people is as simple as making goods available anywhere. If it exists, we'll find it. This is why digital storefronts like Fangamer and Meat Bun can be so successful. Literally anything you may want in order to express your gaming passion, from toys to music to clothing to the odd bit of paraphernalia, can be yours with a quick Google search and a few mouse clicks. Toss it all in a virtual basket and punch in a credit card number or PayPal password, and within a week your newest gadget or fashion statement will be in your hands. Back in the 90s, ordering anything from the comfort of your home meant suffering the dreaded six-to-eight-week delivery period. If you phoned in your order, you might shave a week or two off that delivery time. Either way, you were waiting at least a full month before anything arrived. By then you probably forgot you had ordered anything at all! On the flip side, coming home to a strange parcel on your doorstep was a little like Christmas. You wondered, what could it be? It's only when you saw the sender's address that you remembered what it was, then you tore open the box like a feverish child. There's nothing quite like being pleasantly surprised by something you forgot was coming in the mail. Nintendo Power's Super Power Supplies catalog was really something out of a young Nintendo child's wildest fantasies. In many ways, it was the precursor to Club Nintendo. Only you spent real money instead of virtual coins. And there was more stuff to buy. And the selection wasn't shit. After launching in 1994, new editions of the catalog would arrive seasonally, swapping out older items with newer ones that ranged from practical to downright strange. I mean, there was a 6.5' Donkey Kong Country inflatable raft shaped like a giant banana! I would love to meet the dude who still has one of those stuffed away in his garage! Of course, there were always items to help with your ever-growing NP library -- plastic protectors, magazine binders and racks, and a full suite of Player's Guides. For your hardware storage needs, you had travel bags for handhelds, organizers for home consoles, and cases to keep the dust out of loose game cartridges. Nintendo gave us the means to fortify our gaming collection against any and all types of damage and degradation. I paid an extra close eye on the available soundtracks. To this day, physical game albums are treated as a pointless novelty by most Western publishers, while Japan gets CDs for even the crappiest of C-grade filth. Nintendo seems especially averse to selling its music -- we're lucky that the Super Mario Galaxy games got the full CD treatment, but it still took a lot of teeth-pulling just to convince Nintendo to bundle the first Galaxy's OST with American Wiis. It wasn't always like that. There was a time when Nintendo happily produced albums for all its biggest software hits and made them available for the NP army. You wanted Killer Cuts, the aptly titled Killer Instinct soundtrack? It was yours! You wanted a trilogy set that included the music from Super Mario 64, Star Fox 64, and Mario Kart 64? No problem, son! You wanted Play It Loud!, a compilation CD that pulled tracks from Super Nintendo titles like F-Zero, Super Metroid, A Link to the Past, and more? Ain't no thing but a chicken wing! My very first game soundtrack purchase was DK Jamz, the Donkey Kong Country OST. I bought that sucker on cassette -- remember those things? You had to rewind them and shit? I loved it! I didn't even own an SNES, much less the game itself, but combined with my copy of the DKC Player's Guide, I felt like I knew that game inside and out. But the best were the special goodies brought out to commemorate Nintendo Power's 100th issue. You could score an "NP100"-stamped watch, T-shirt, or set of collector's coins, or you could hold out for the limited-edition gold N64 controller and Game Boy Pocket. I skipped out on the Game Boy (kinda wish I hadn't) but snatched up the controller. When that hotness showed up at my house two months later, I became the god of GoldenEye 007. I was invincible! Suck on THAT, Gold Nunchuk! I never did buy all that much stuff from Super Power Supplies -- there was no way my parents were buying anything over the phone with a credit card, and they saw mail order offers as not quite a scam but close enough to one. I was lucky enough to receive the items that I did; for the rest, I gazed longingly upon those pages. Take usual fare such as shirts, hoodies, jackets, watches, plush dolls, action figures, wall clocks, console decals, hats, and posters, then toss in amazing pieces of gaming memorabilia like Yoshi's Island animation cels or Donkey Kong Country Blockbuster Video competition carts, and you've got Super Power Supplies. And when you consider that this was merely supplementary to the Nintendo Power reading experience, you can understand how it was so easy to get caught up in Nintendo mania. Nintendo Power was a phenomenon, plain and simple. There will never be anything like it ever again, and that makes me incredibly sad. At the same time, I'm thankful that I was able to be part of a movement that literally changed my life and the lives of millions of others. And if I was able to score some sweet gaming swag out of the deal, so much the better!
Super Power Supplies photo
Nintendo Power had awesome merch
[Offbeat Hall of Fame is a showcase of the cool, often bizarre products and media from years past that celebrate videogames and gamer culture.] Have you picked up your copy of the final Nintendo Power yet? Looking through it ...

Nintendo Power's last hurrah leaves me in tears

Dec 08 // Tony Ponce
You already know about the magazine's cover, which pays tribute to the cover of the very first issue. Perhaps even cooler than that is the included poster, which features a spread of every single issue plus variant covers stretching all the way back to 1988, bringing the total count to 300. I can even see the issue that started it all for me: October 1991, with Star Trek on the front. I was a devoted subscriber until early in the GameCube years, when I foolishly dropped it for the more "mature" Game Informer. I even tossed my entire back catalog in the trash because I was running out of room in my closet! I was soooo stupid. I wish I could go back in time 10 years and punch my high school self in the nuts. The mag is split up into four massive sections: NP's top Nintendo games ever, a recap of all 24 years of NP history, farewells from current and past NP editors, and a review blowout for most of the Wii U launch library. And this time around, the letters to the editors don't only include messages from readers but also from industry faces like WayForward's Matt Bozon and Sean Velasco, DreamRift's Peter Ong, and Game|Life's Chris Kohler, among others. The top 285 games -- one for every issue of the magazine's run -- definitely has some odd placements, especially on the lower rungs. I'm slightly disappointed that the Game Boy got as little representation as it did, but just about all the games you'd expect to make the cut have. These are just the editors' opinions, after all, and it's not like you'll be able to write in your objections. The biggest draw, of course, is the year-by-year retrospective of Nintendo Power. Seeing the scans from those decades-old issues and reading about all the promotions running at the time really sent me back to my childhood. They even highlight one of my favorite moments: a 1995 contest in which the winner would get to be an extra on the set of The Mask II! Whoever won that contest got royally fucked over! Ha! Simply seeing the magazine's progression in an abridged format gives you a true sense of how much effort was put in tailoring Nintendo Power to the fans. From free games for subscribers in the form of Dragon Warrior and The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition to full-on monthly comics for Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Star Fox, and more, it was just an avalanche of goodness. Editors from throughout NP's life chime in with their favorite moments and also a couple of their more shameful ones. For instance, I'm glad that Scott Pelland, managing editor from 1988 to 2008, was able to admit that no one on staff was happy to promote the Virtual Boy but were obligated to anyway. And Steve Thomason, editor-in-chief from 2003 to 2012, asks forgiveness for giving Shadow the Hedgehog an 8.0. It's cool, Steve. Nobody's perfect. If there was one thing about this issue I wasn't too pleased by, it was the third-party advertisements. One of the things I admired about Nintendo Power back in the early days was that, unlike competing mags, it was relatively ad-free, and the few ads that were there were for Nintendo's own hardware and software. It wasn't until this past decade that NP started welcoming outside ads. I had hoped that for this big sendoff, the mag would have eschewed any and all ads. I mean, seriously, what's the worst that could have happened? The companies pull support and refuse to print anything in Nintendo Power ever again? Pssssh! The magazine closes with one last surprise: a two-page comic starring Nester and his son Maxwell. Nester was just a spunky kid when he first graced NP alongside "Gamemaster" Howard Phillips. After Nester's Adventures completed its run, he would return sporadically for high-profile events, such as the mag's100th issue. We saw him grow up, go to college, and start a family, but throughout it all, he's still a kid at heart and able to pass that gaming spirit on to his progeny. It was a fun ride, Nintendo Power. You did alright.
Bye bye, Nintendo Power photo
The final issue hits all the right notes
Last night, I noticed that the final issue of Nintendo Power was in stock at Barnes & Noble. Naturally, I bought two copies: one to peruse and one to leave in the shrink wrap FOR. EV. ER. If you've ever been an NP reader ...

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The final Nintendo Power cover is perfect


Simply... perfect...
Nov 30
// Tony Ponce
On the left is Nintendo Power #1. On the right is the final issue, #285. Wow. Bravo. We were hoping to wait until the mag hit newsstands on December 11, but since this photo of its cover has been making the rounds all day, we...
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Let's watch 27 minutes of Rockman commercials!


Kicking of the 25th anniversary celebration right
Nov 23
// Tony Ponce
Thanksgiving is over, which means it's time to shift gears and focus on the next major celebration: the 25th anniversary of Mega Man! My writing output, which was already very Mega Man-heavy, is poised to become even more "m...

Review: Retro City Rampage

Oct 31 // Tony Ponce
Retro City Rampage (PC [reviewed], PlayStation Network, PlayStation Vita, WiiWare, Xbox Live Arcade)Developer: Vblank EntertainmentPublisher: Vblank EntertainmentRelease: October 9, 2012 (PC, PSN, Vita) / Q4 2012 (WiiWare, XBLA)MSRP: $14.99 (PC, PSN, Vita) / TBA (WiiWare, XBLA) Retro City Rampage has had quite the colorful history. Originally conceived as the NES homebrew project Grand Theftendo, Brian decided to shift development to PC in order to escape the NES' limitations. From then on, the game started to gain an identity of its own. RCR may be an open-world sandbox, but a GTA clone it is not. It is a melting pot of ideas and inspiration, a conglomerate of cameos and pop culture references that are woven into the fabric so seamlessly that it feels like they truly belong together. It's Brian's own Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and the in-game world of Theftropolis is his Toontown. So rich is the city with heartfelt nods to cherished icons of yesteryear that you can't even go 30 seconds without being slammed by a parade of nostalgia. As you cruise the streets, you may notice the Ninja Turtles' Party Wagon or the A-Team's van driving by. Environments and objects straight out of Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, and more dot the landscape. There's even a boxing gym operated by a man who is totally a dead ringer for Doc Louis from Punch-Out!! [embed]237235:45596[/embed] A lot of these references are window dressing, so it might be easy to pass RCR off as lacking substance. That couldn't be further from the truth. The biggest references of all are built into the missions themselves, straddling the line between parody and homage but always with love and attention to detail. In one mission, you break into the home of the very Batman-esque Biffman, don his costume, and patrol the streets in search of Biffman's nemesis the Jester. In another mission, you bust onto the set of a Saved by the Bell knockoff during a live taping, beat up the high school boys, then take the girl back to your place for some "iced tea." In yet another mission, you have to dive into the reservoir to deactivate bombs in a recreation of the infamous dam level from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES. These are the kinds of adventures you'll embark upon during the main missions, but you might want to kill some time driving around the street, jacking cars, and mowing down pedestrians instead. The more carnage you create, the more your notoriety grows, attracting the attention of ever more aggressive cops and eventually the military. As with GTA, there's something morbidly cathartic about spreading wanton chaos and destruction -- even more so when the world is populated by pixelated, toy-like caricatures of beach bums, gymnasts, and mariachis. Like I metioned, there is an overarching story. You are a hired thug known only as "Player," who is hurtled through time after stealing Bill and Ted's phone booth in front of a convenience store. Stranded in the future, you are fortunate enough to bump into Doc Choc, who's willing to let you use his DeLorean time machine if you can help repair it. Thus, you must track down the missing pieces of the machine, following leads and taking odd jobs along the way. During your quest, you frequently cross paths with your former employer, A.T. Corp., which holds a monopoly on nearly every industry in Theftropolis, from the media to software development. The biggest thorn in your side is the company's lead scientist, Dr. Von Buttnik, who rides around in a wrecking ball-swinging pod like a certain blue speedster's nemesis. In a stroke of hilarious cleverness, Player's conflict with A.T. Corp. sidesteps all player agency concerns. Player claims to be disgusted by A.T. Corp.'s nefarious business practices, which would seem at odds with his penchant for city-wide mayhem. When asked about this contradiction directly, Player flatly states that the two behaviors are not mutually exclusive. By embracing such a contradiction, Retro City Rampage allows you to have your cake and eat it too! Beyond the core levels, you unlock sub-missions that task you with using a specific weapon or tool to destroy a number of pedestrians or cars or to earn a certain amount of points within a time limit. You are then rated on your performance with a bronze, silver, or gold medal, and your score is posted onto the leaderboards. While scoring is typically very straightforward -- link kills together for a streak bonus -- I had serious issues in sub-missions involving handheld explosives like grenades or dynamite. Destroying people or vehicles with these items yields very few points, so the trick is to cause a chain reaction by using the explosion of one vehicle to destroy nearby ones. For some odd reason, this doesn't always result in a substantial amount of points. Maybe I've yet to discover exactly what triggers scoring chains when it comes to explosives, but I find them to be very random, making these some of the most difficult portions of the entire game. Then there are the guest mini-games, starring Commander Video from the BIT.TRIP series, Meat Boy, and even Harley Morenstein and Muscles Glasses from Epic Meal Time. Commander Video's game is an abridged version of BIT.TRIP RUNNER, Meat Boy's takes its cues from Rad Racer (use 3D glasses for stereoscopic mode!), and the EMT crew's closely resembles "Test Your Might" from Mortal Kombat. Clearing these games unlocks the characters' likenesses in either Free Roaming Mode or in the plastic surgery office alongside the Dtoid crew's mugs. The EMT game is not all that hard, but the BIT.TRIP and Meat Boy ones may make you want to smack your head against a wall. They start easily enough, but the challenge quickly ramps up. Particularly in BIT.TRIP, I was having extreme difficulty bouncing off alligator heads using the Xbox 360 controller. When I switched to the keyboard instead, jumping became far more responsive. That may have simply been a mechanical problem with my controller, but as I didn't have any similar issues elsewhere, I'm left to wonder. Customization is another major feature of RCR. You can change the border around the game screen to look like various monitors or arcade cabinets, add CRT scanlines, or apply color filters to simulate the look of old console, handheld, or computer software. If you want to pretend you are playing on an old VGA monitor, you can! If you want to recreate the feeling of squinting at the Game Boy's tiny spinach-colored square, that's possible too! Whatever tickles your nostalgia bone, there's an option available to satisfy your desires. Options extend to play style as well. By pressing and holding the fire button, you will lock onto the nearest target in your line of sight, but you can also use the right stick on a controller to enable twin-stick shooting, Smash TV style. You can dispatch enemies either by shooting them, bashing them, or running over them. n addition, you can pull a Mario and jump on their heads, a quick means to escape a tight squeeze when you are besieged on all sides. There's even a basic cover system for fans of Gears of War because... hell... why not? I haven't even touched upon the amazing chiptune soundtrack, composed by notable game composers Leonard "Freaky DNA" Paul (Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2, NBA Jam 2010) and Jake "virt" Kaufman (Shantae, Double Dragon Neon) as well as game music arranger extraordinaire Matt "Norrin_Radd" Creamer. Their tunes can be heard on the various radio stations while cruising through Theftropolis, the pulse-pounding bass and melodies giving voice to RCR's marriage of anarchy and candy-coated nostalgia. Unfortunately, the on-screen action at any time can be so overwhelming that it drowns out the music. At its worst, the soundtrack sounds like chaotic noise, hardly the catchy rhythms we associate with 8-bit gaming. That isn't so much the soundtrack's fault as it is the sheer concentration of activity that fills every second of play time, but it's nonetheless disappointing. It's this chaos that serves as both RCR's greatest triumph and biggest failing. To go anywhere and do anything, to never go a minute without being bombarded by visual and aural stimulation -- that all sounds good on paper; in practice, it often comes off as distracting. It's a jumble of events that fly past so quickly that your sense of focus will fall apart if you aren't completely devoted. But that was always going to be a problem, considering the ambitious decade-long journey Brian embarked upon. He wanted this to be his magnum opus, a love letter to everything that ever influenced him or made him smile. At the very least, the game never feels bloated or drawn out -- if you only attempt the main story missions, you'll be done in a matter of hours. However, if you want to lose yourself in the city or embark upon an Easter egg quest, the size and scope make for the perfect playground. Will there be people who don't like Retro City Rampage? Of course. In many ways, it bites off more than it can chew, especially when it comes to some of the one-time gimmick missions. Regardless, it is an ambitious achievement that celebrates everything that gaming has been and ever will be. It's clever, funny, outrageous, and even a bit frustrating, but there is a genuine respect for both the players and the sources of all the referenced material. I've barely scratched the surface of what secrets and activities are in store, but I'll leave the rest to you to discover on your own.
Retro City Rampage photo
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[Full Disclosure: Not only do current and former Destructoid staff appear as unlockable character skins in the game, there's also a main story mission during which you go inside a giant Mr. Destructoid robot. For these reaso...

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The joy of traps

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Mega Man. Prince of Persia. Tomb Raider. When you think of these games, many of you may be reminded of the numerous spike traps that led to the untimely demise of your digital avatar, and possibly the demise of your actual controller. Of course, one can only think of themselves in this situation, but what about the poor contractors that were conscripted in Dr. Wily's army -- the saps who actually designed those labyrinths? Are they not people too? What if you could outwit your opponent with a combination of crafty cudgels and catapults? Of course, tower defense prides itself on setting up giant obelisks of power ready to crush your enemies with a single blow, but most of the time, you're not fighting in the trenches in favor of an omniscient God-like overview of the battlefield. The feeling of actually being in the thick of things is another emotion entirely that a lot of people sadly miss out on. While I could fill an ocean with my appreciation for trap-setting games, I'll just share a few of my personal favorites that I feel exemplify my love for the genre. Imagine that you're the keeper of a secret mansion -- the sentinel for an undying, God-like race. Now picture a bunch of jealous humans trying to break in and mess things up for said Gods. As young slave girl Millennia, your loyalty is called into question as you balance the scales between those who wield power and those who seek it. That's basically Deception II in a nutshell, and the result is an awesome explosion of trap crafting to the most epic Rube Goldbergian proportions! Deception II, in essence, gives you a bunch of ground, wall, and ceiling traps and then sets you loose on a cavalcade of enemies from ninjas to mages to knights armored head to toe. The big tactical catch is that you are completely defenseless when it comes to hand-to-hand or ranged combat -- your survival hinges entirely on your ability to out-Goldberg your opponents. Friends, there is no better feeling than nabbing someone in a bear trap as you cue a giant Indiana Jones boulder down a nearby stairwell, then watch them panic as you quell their fears (and their body temperature) with a well-placed cold arrow. Traps sound so much more fun when you're not on the receiving end of them, don't they? Deception II is basically a sadistic 3D version of The Incredible Machine, which is pretty much the best thing ever. In what is truly a unique experience, the Deception series is unrivaled when it comes to 3D trap action. While the rush of Deception can't be echoed quite so easily, another game that brings me great joy is a title that happens to be one of the only competitive multiplayer games in the genre: Trap Gunner. While you have the ability to both shoot projectiles and perform melee attacks here, the meat of your damage is going to come from setting traps. Luckily, the game comes with one of the most amazing mechanics of all time: the ability to search, uncover, and disarm traps. Trap Gunner allowed you to be the Sherlock Holmes of action games, adding the mechanic to search suspicious areas for traps in your proximity -- if you find one, you're able to disarm it through a random QTE. Of course, your enemy could spot you and blow you to kingdom come, triggering the trap. This creates a unique cat-and-mouse situation, where you have to weigh the prudence of setting or disarming traps at any given moment. The idea that any given square could have a deadly bomb on it is pretty nerve-racking and makes for a pretty stressful experience, one that's fairly unique to the trap-setting genre! My absolute favorite thing to do is set up a minimum of five push traps that elaborately force my opponent across the entire map and into a stack of TNT so gigantic it would make Looney Toon's ACME Corporation jealous. I remember spending afternoons planning out levels on paper in a grid-like fashion, deciding the best places to place certain traps -- not many contemporary games are capable of providing that feeling, and I miss it. The above two games are classic, but what better way to reintroduce the genre than a title that lets you slaughter hordes of angry orcs? Orcs are the picture-perfect Xeno-Scapegoat for killing and maiming -- just ask anybody! Topped off by a kickass gothic rock soundtrack, Orcs Must Die! bestows upon you the honor of killing hundreds of greenskins (sometimes in a single level) and other such creatures. The setup is kind of like Sanctum but less tower-defense oriented. Your avatar is also the exact opposite of the one in Deception II -- your playable Warrior Mage can kill, maim, slice, and shoot his way to victory even without the help of traps. Fortunately, said traps are extremely useful, especially with the ability to summon NPC archers and knights to join your cause. While there aren't as many elaborate Goldberg-esque combinations, there are still a few, like springboard floor traps and vent traps that can lift your enemies into danger. Orcs Must Die! doesn't do anything spectacularly unique, but it does everything extremely well, especially for an indie, budget-priced title. If you're at all interested in the trap-setting genre and share my joy, Orcs Must Die! is a great place to get started. There are tons of other trap classes in games like Diablo II and World of Warcraft that weren't mentioned here. You could easily compare the genre of tower defense in many ways, even if you aren't necessarily always in the trenches (Sanctum!).  Traps themselves are also found all over the gaming world. Games like Metal Gear Solid feature claymores and other such proximity-based traps. Mario Kart prides itself on player-set traps. Night Trap ... need I say more? While the genre itself is dwindling in favor of more tower defense games, as it stands, I'm lying in wait, ready to trap my next joy. GoldenEye 64 proximity mines only, anyone? [Thanks for the game images, Sir Tobbii!]
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When you think of the word "trap," what's the first thing that comes to mind? If your psyche isn't in the darkest depths of the catacombs, you're probably thinking of a mechanical device with the purpose of inflicting harm up...


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